Raptors - Sounds Wild
Eagle Doesn't Take Dog


Download Episode: Eagle Doesn't Take Dog (MP3 file 2,450 kB)


A bald eagle swoops low just off the beach. Its talons brush the water and it snatches a ten-inch fish, which wiggles and twists as the eagle flies away. Nearby, another eagle lands on a spawned-out chum salmon and begins to feed. It has no intention of flying off with the fish because it can't.

Every few years a story makes the rounds that an eagle has swooped down and carried off someone's small dog. These stories never check out, and there's no documented case of a bald eagle in Alaska carrying off a dog or cat. Eagles are strong, aggressive raptors, but like everything that flies they are governed by the laws of aerodynamics. The wings of an eagle need to support the 8 to 12 pound bird itself, as well as whatever it might be carrying. An adult eagle can only carry about five pounds - but it's not quite that simple. Aerodynamic lift is based on wing size and air speed. The faster something flies, the greater the lift potential. An eagle that lands on the beach and then lifts off again is limited to a smaller payload than a bird that swoops down at speed and snatches something.

Eagles are alert and curious and they might watch a small pet, but they are also cautious and unlikely to approach a pet near people. And they are fish eaters and scavengers, by and large preferring herring size fish. They might scavenge a road-killed pet, but in reality, those furbabies are safe from eagles.